Do mythological tales still hold relevance in today’s hyper-connected world? Can they be retold in a way to attract the global-culture-enveloping-next-Gen?
Dashavatar: Stories of Lord Vishnu by Piyusha Vir is an excellent step towards that end. The book starts earnestly, grows on you steadily and by the time it is the turn of Maryada Purushottam Ram, it becomes a compelling read. Of all the tales, Ramavatar is my favorite rendition. I find it more special because I don’t particularly carry a torch for Ram who is revered across. Piyusha brings out the stoic love between Ram and Sita with utter sensitivity. The next fave would be the Buddha.
The book’s progression mirrors the evolution of mankind. The author’s belief-systems vis-à-vis feminism, work-ethics, orthodoxy are adroitly woven into the narrative without jarring the storyline, mark of an author. The language is lucid and contemporary, the writing style is very fluid and utterly effortless.
Piyusha Vir shared her thoughts with AkkaAcerbic
Please share something about yourself. Your professional and personal life. What are the other things apart from writing, that you do?
Apart from writing and reading, I take up freelance teaching assignments. I am a CELTA-certified English Language Trainer and IELTS Coach. The flexibility of freelance projects allows me to stay away from the monotony of a 9-5 job and gives me the freedom to work on my writing too.
What inspired you to start writing Dashavatar? What is the story behind starting?
I have always been fascinated by mythology. But somewhere down the line, I had grown distant from this love. It was rekindled with reading another Readomania book – Mallar Chatterjee’s Yudhisthira—The Unfallen Pandava and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions and then it further spilled over to other mythological stories as well.
Many of the characters, especially the Rama avatar or the Krishna avatar, came about for a certain purpose. Their lives and stories are chronicled in Ramayana and Mahabharata, respectively, but I wanted to go even deeper and understand why they came to exist at all. That was what fuelled my interest in the ten avatars.
However, my attempt at writing these stories isn’t just to share that wisdom. It is to make mythology more believable and relevant to the world that we live in today.
Why should anyone read your book, Dashavatar?
I feel there is a lot of wisdom and knowledge in our Mythology that is waiting to be tapped. With the epics, like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, each one of us is already familiar with the common narrative. But these epics don’t exist in isolation. Most of our mythological stories are so strongly interwoven and inter-dependent on one another that they seem part of an intricate jigsaw puzzle.
Dashavatar is an interesting collection of short stories on the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu. The stories are not just a simple retelling of what we already know. It is, in fact, relooking at the stories of the ten avatars and understanding their relevance with who and what we are today.
How do these stories fit in our current social and political context? What are the learnings we can imbibe from them in our present-day world? And how do they link to the Charles Darwin theory of evolution?
But it is not just the answers to these questions that readers will arrive at. They will also be entertained as each of these stories contain interesting events, believable characters and are relatable and authentic. They may be stories that have been heard time and again, and yet each story will offer the readers something new.
Everyone is writing, wanting to become an author, so how does a reader differentiate between good and bad?
I feel every writer should work towards improving their craft. So that when a book comes out, it doesn’t let a reader down. Not every writer wants to be an author, and not every author is a good writer. A reader can easily differentiate between a good or a bad book by following their instinct when picking up a book. If they feel that a certain book is worth their time and money, then they should certainly invest in it.
I sincerely believe that readers will find Dashavatar not just worthy of their investment but also exceed their expectations.
Writing a book…tell us all the good and the bad of this journey. Did you think of giving up at any moment in your journey?
Writing, unlike what most people believe, is tough. The good part was when the words were flowing with ease. When I knew what happens next in the story or what the characters are going to say or do, those were the times when I was happy during the writing process.
The difficulty came when I had to assimilate the research and present it in a story that would first be believable for me. Some of the avatars were difficult to even research and write. With others, so much material was available, that I was lost as to where to begin or end.
I never thought of giving up. I had no misconceptions in mind that this would be an easy journey. I knew it would be challenging and I was at some level prepared for the bad phases too. So every time I hit a bump, I would simply push forward with more vigour.
What 3 things would you suggest to the aspirants who wish to dive into writing a full-length novel?
I can’t focus on the importance of reading enough. So that has to be the first thing.
Second, I feel people rush into publishing a novel too soon. I’d urge aspiring authors to give themselves the time to hone their writing skills first. Only when they are convinced about their final product should they approach a publisher.
Third, I feel it is critical to have a support system of writers and authors who are at the same stage of their writing journeys as you. Writing can be extremely frustrating, especially when one has to face multiple rejections. At such times, fellow writers can help bring back the enthusiasm and lift one’s morale back up to ensure that you never quit. I once read somewhere that writing is a lonely journey, but writers never have to be.
How difficult or easy was it for you to get your debut book published? Give a few tips that can be of use to budding writers.
I have been incredibly lucky with both my books. My first book happened because I wrote a short story that my editor, Rima Kar Ghosh, and my publisher, Dipankar Mukherjee liked so much that they instantly wanted me to write a short story collection. That story was Writer’s Circle and it is part of my first book, Just Another Day, an eBook published under Readomania Shots.
With Dashavatar (my first solo-authored book in print) too, the journey of publishing it was relatively easy. It was the writing that I struggled with more.
For advice to new writers, I will simply repeat what best-selling author Stephen King says – Read a lot. Write a lot.
Do you ever face writer’s fatigue or inertia, which most people call writer’s block? How do you overcome that?
Had you asked me this two years ago, I would have proudly claimed that I have never faced writer’s block. But just before JAD happened, I had gone through three painful days of not writing a word. I think that must have been the first time I faced writer’s block. And they were very frustrating three days. Fortunately, what came out of that was what led to my first eBook. So, now I am not deterred by such blocks.
I believe every low period is followed by a high. So even if I hit a slump, I just show up and write. That’s the only way to overcome it, I think.
What next after Dashavatar?
There are quite a few ideas that I am toying with but I’ve not zeroed in on anyone as the premise for the next book. I think for now I am just going to ride the wave of joy that comes with being a debut author.
Piyusha Vir will be interacting with book-lovers at the World-Book-Fair 2020